Writing Style – Expressing Numbers

Just as some grammar rules have changed, so too are numbers in for an overhaul. Several BizWtitingTip readers have pointed out that many of the blue population signs on major highways are missing the commas that designate thousands.

This is the international way of expressing numbers. When numbers run to five or more figures, spaces (not commas) are left between groups of numbers.

Example (on a blue highway) sign

Population ?44 000

When numbers run to only four figures, the space is unnecessary unless these numbers occur together with larger numbers that require spaces.

Example

We were pleased to hear that 5430 people participated in the marathon.

We were pleased to note that of the 10 500 people who attended the concert over 5 000 purchased our tee shirts.

When expressing money amounts using the international style, a comma replaces a decimal point.

Example

$12 671,17 (international style) $12,671.17 (standard style)

In Quebec, the French-language media has already adopted the international style. The media in the rest of Canada is not using it yet. It is, however, coming into the country slowly. It is being taught in many of Canada’s elementary schools.

Don’t shoot the messenger!

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